Four Flies on Grey Velvet / 4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971)

5.0 out of 5

Michael Brandon plays Roberto, a drummer in a rock band who discovers much to his chagrin that he’s being followed. When he chases the stalker, a total stranger, into a disused theatre a struggle ensues that ends in the other man’s accidental death. Just as Roberto tries to catch his breath the click of a camera alerts him to the presence of a third person: a figure in a sinister smiling mask standing in the stalls.

First blackmailed, then attacked, Roberto becomes increasingly paranoid, becoming estranged from his wife Nina, Mimsy Perfume of the Lady in Black Farmer, and beating up the poor postman in the process. When people begin to be murdered, it’s clear he must get to the killer before the killer gets to him.

Although maligned by some, the final entry of Dario Argento’s ‘Animal Trilogy’ lives up to its predecessors. The director's camera is as active as ever, panning along phone lines and gliding along with murder weapons, and he actually manages to elicit decent performances from most of his actors. Particularly memorable are endearing turns from Oscar-winner Jean-Pierre Marielle and Bud Spencer as a character called ‘God’.

A recurrent motif is some staged footage of a Middle Eastern beheading ceremony in a well-lit public square which is used as a dream sequence and flashed up at key moments. This is used to haunting effect in what, largely thanks to Morricone’s score, is a moving, lyrical and unforgettable climax.

The identity of Roberto’s persecutor is revealed thanks to a rogue sci-fi element, courtesy of story collaborator Luigi Cozzi of Starcrash infamy, about the retina preserving the image of the last thing it saw.

One of Argento’s best, the film was amazingly released rated PG in the US.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics